Wednesday, July 31, 2013

City Dump, Guatemala CIty

(Continued from Parts 1, 2, 3)
City Tour: The City Dump

The city dump is located just beyond the National cemetery. We can smell it before we see it.
We walk through a row of obviously forgotten grave sites. There, the vultures are waiting and circling.
 The repugnant smell of the city dump forces us to cover our faces.
 Many people live in the dump. 
There are tents scattered throughout the garbage. 
I can't help but think about the stench and what it must be like to eat and sleep among others' trash.
There are those who make their living combing through the trash, hoping for things to sell or reuse. 
 In the far upper left corner is Grand Tikal Futura, the mall/hotel a few blocks from our home. 
We live close.
I'm aware of a few ministries that work with people who live and work in the dump. I heard about an after school program that helps children who live here. There are possibilities of us working with some of these ministries in the future.

Guatemala National Cemetery

(Continued from Part 1 and Part 2)
City Tour Part 3: National Cemetery

The rotten smell of garbage and fermentation slapped us in the face as we stepped out of the truck.  Above us, vultures circled.
The National Cemetery is on a cliff overlooking the city dump.
There are sections for Germans, British, Chinese, teachers, military, musicians, politicians, as well as small families and individuals. 
The cemetery is like a small town. There are labeled street names. I could easily get lost here.
Between these walls of tombs there are rudely constructed shanties. People live here.

Some grave sites are kept up better than others.
This large structure is not for an Egyptian pharaoh. Nope, just the family that owns the local famous beer company. 
A place for the military.
This is the tomb for a past President featured on the 5 Quetzal bill. 
Learning to drive vehicles is prohibited in this cemetery, according to the sign. 
Vendors know to go where the people are, even in cemeteries. 
Next stop: the city dump.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

City Tour Part 2: Central Market

The Central Market in the city has three levels underground. It's huge.
The first level has the usual tourist trinkets. Bags, shoes, souvenirs, dolls, clothes. 
The second level is the food market with every fruit and vegetable I can imagine, as well as several small kitchens offering tables and menus of the day. 

Also, fried fish.
(In the background is a woman in her small kitchen cubicle).

The third and lowest level is an artisan floor. 
There are things like homemade baskets, candles, and clay items. 
I can't wait to go back at Christmas to buy Christmas decorations.
 Just about every seed or nut or dried seasoning I could want. 
 As we walk around the city, we find local vendors, chopping or peeling their produce as we pass.
 A couple women in traditional Guatemalan clothes (usually indicates they are indigenous) selling homemade purses, necklaces, and other items made from the bright colors that Guatemala is known for (similar to what can be found on the first floor of the Central Market).
 What city tour would be complete without passing by a local Wendy's?
 One of the best parts of this day: the downtown Post Office.
 Why was it one of my favorite stops? 
Because of this:
 Our first mail! A birthday card for Michael, a baby announcement, and a stack of notes and cards from the Moms Group I was part of back in Fresno. Though the envelope was postmarked from June, we just received them this week. (It's possible the mail hadn't been checked in a while.) 

One specific note came at the perfect time: Trust God when you wonder why you're there.
After a week of taking in the poverty, danger, and reality of the place we work and live, this was a much-needed reminder. 
 The post office also serves as an Arts Center. I'm certain I've never seen this sign before.
 It's hard to walk far without being offered a shoe shining service.
Almost every business offers a delivery service. You can order delivery to your home from every fast food place. We often see bikes from Burger King or Pollo Campero, the local chicken chain, driving around. 
We recently had the local pharmacy deliver antibiotics to our front door. It's a genius system.

Tomorrow we are going to El Salvador for two days but I am planning to post pictures from the cemetery and city dump, the last part of our city tour, soon.

Monday, July 29, 2013

City Tour: The National Palace

Today we took a break from the office orientation and toured the city. We visited the National Palace and Catholic Church, Central Market, the city cemetery, and the city dump.
Driving through the city. 
Pink storefront.
It was fascinating to see a woman dressed in traditional clothing, carrying her baby and on a cell phone, standing on the front steps to the National Palace (Catholic church in the background).
I had to snap the picture without her noticing so the lighting is not great.
The National Palace was completed in 1943 after 4 years of using prisoners and local indigenous people forced to work by a law that accused them of being lazy. Behind such governmental grandeur is pain, labor, and hardship. 
The large room where dignitaries are usually received. The rooms are covered in decorations of 12 or 24 karat gold. The star in the middle of the floor marks the center of Guatemala and is where all road distances are measured from (known as Zero Kilometer). Our tourist guide let us go behind the roped off area one at a time to take a picture.

This statue is located in the Peace Patio, where the peace accords were signed in 1996 to end a 36-year civil war. The rose used to be replaced daily in a ceremony that signified 24 more hours of peace in Guatemala. Now it is replaced by VIPs less often. The two left hands represent the guerrillas and the military who were fighting. 
With the current Guatemala Rep.
I was drawn to the connected hands on the statue.
Apparently the president during construction had a special like for the number 5, so everything was built in fives. (This is the Peace Patio where the statue is).

The 12 columns in front of the Catholic Church list the names of thousands of people murdered or who forcibly disappeared (40,000-50,000 "disappeared") in what is now recognized as genocide during the civil war. 

After touring the National Palace we visited the Central Market, the cemetery, and the city dump. Stay tuned for more pictures.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Current Context

It's our first week of training in Guatemala. We've been discussing in depth the context here and in El Salvador in which we will be working. 

I'm simultaneously…

over the stories of sexual abuse, systemic poverty, cycles of low self-esteem among women, and a culture of treating women like third-class citizens.

by the issues surrounding the 36-year civil war and the ways North America contributes to so many problems.

 to get to know our staff and to build relationships.

 by the work MCC's partners are doing throughout Guatemala and El Salvador to educate and create space to think differently about some of the horrific systems.

 by the width and depth of problems and politics involved.

if it's possible to make a difference here.

 thinking about ways we can continue to connect our work and stories with North America. 
(Come visit! There are several opportunities to join a group to work and learn here).

that we might breathe new life and new perspectives into our work.

for the opportunity to live and work and grow in ways we can't yet imagine.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Potholders, Rocks, and Pins

To conclude our training in Pennsylvania we participated in a time of sending off, often referred to as a "commissioning" among Christian circles when referring to a dispersement of people or beginning of a new ministry.  
We sat in a large circle together, those of us newly trained with the MCC staff based in Pennsylvania. We prayed together, sang together, some of us cried, and we broke bread together.
Though we've been in Guatemala for two months, it's been an almost undefinable time as we studued Spanish and had a unique routine that we will never mimc again. We had already said most of our goodbyes two months ago, but somehow there was a sense of temporariness as we knew we'd return to PA for some training and interaction with North Americans.

And so, two months later, stepping foot onto a plane bound for Guatemala felt more permanent somehow; this time we know we'll be on Latin American soil for years. 

There's also the reality of our work ahead of us. This week we begin three weeks of training, visiting our partners that we work with throughout Guatemala and El Salvador, listening, learning, and reconciling our new normal.

As we closed our time in Akron, MCC gifted us with a few symbols:

A potholder, made by volunteers who spend time crocheting/knitting these and praying for the recipients, new staff of MCC, and the work they will be doing throughout the world. A symbol of prayer and support as we depart.

A stone, because there will be times of beauty and smoothness, and also rough, hard times ahead.

And a pin with the MCC logo, a cross and a dove intersecting to display our work of peace and love in the name of Christ.

Onward, we go.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Relief, Development, and Peace

For the past two weeks, from 8:30-5:00 every day (including highly anticipated coffee and lunch breaks,) we sit and listen and discuss and absorb information.

A few things we are attempting to learn during Leadership Orientation:
  • Anabaptist theology and the practice of non-violence
  • Missions and values of our organization
  • Program overviews and holistic leadership
  • How to fill out report after report after report
  • Supervisory training 
  • Conflict resolution (We spent an entire day on this. I'm thinking we have some resoluting in our future. Also, I just made up a word.)
  • Conflict analysis
  • How to fill out more reports
  • Tomorrow I think we learn some technology stuff and we even have a field trip. 
What I've been struck by is the variety of experiences and countries surrounding me every day.

There are couples and singles of all ages and stations of life going to Chad, Mexico, Kenya, Lebanon, Jordan, Canada, Bangladesh, Nigeria, Mozambique, Zambia, Honduras, France, Zimbabwe, and South Sudan.

There's a young couple from Switzerland who speak several languages that will be serving in Latin America. 
There's a woman who was a refugee from the Bosnian war. 
There's an African man who as a child watched his uncles get killed and vowed to grow up and join the military to "get even," but after working with MCC as a young man he realized non-violence and peace and reconciliation were a better choice and has since dedicated his life to peace work. 

There is such a rich history among this group. Several have worked globally in other roles. In a short time we will disperse and begin our journeys to our new homes across the world. 

Regardless of our unique stories, we now have several things in common. Primarily, we will be working towards some principles and purposes, things like acting sustainably, building just economic relationships, dismantling oppression, practicing nonviolence, and seeking a just peace. Doing "relief, development, and peace in the name of Christ," responding to basic human needs and working for peace and justice. (Paraphrased from MCC's Principles and Practices)

I'm just beginning to unpack what all these things mean to me both personally and how they will look in our role in Guatemala. As these themes arise I hope to be able to share thoughts along the way. 

For now,  I'm excited and nervous and ready and not ready and expectant and hopeful and doubtful and energized. 

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Celebrating Hazel's Birth

Hazel's birthday was last weekend. We flew from Guatemala to Pennsylvania on Saturday and Sunday was her birthday. A dear family friend from New York and her kids visited us so we got to celebrate Hazel's birthday with them. We went out to eat and they had carrot cake, which I had made for Ellie's first birthday, so I thought it would be fun to let Hazel try some.

She enjoyed it, but didn't go crazy with it.
This last weekend Michael's brother and his wife drove here from Connecticut for the weekend. They hadn't met Hazel and it had been a year and half since they'd seen Ellie. It was wonderful to connect with family while we're here in the States, especially after all the transitions and changes we've had lately.

We had a little party for Hazel and even had a surprise visit from a Fresno friend who was in town.
Auntie Em, our "adopted" aunt from Fresno. 
"Happy Birthday to me!"

Hazel is so much fun. She is almost always happy. She can scream like crazy and this usually happens at meal time when she sees her food but she can't yet reach it.

She is definitely a cuddler. She loves to sit in our laps or be held. She hugs us and gives lots of kisses. Whenever she hears any kind of music she dances and sings.

One of my favorite things she does these days is fake laugh. She's copying social cues and laughs when others laugh. She waves hello and goodbye (and hola and adios), blows kisses, plays peek-a-boo, and gets strangers to start making silly faces at her.

I'm going to be cliche and say that I can't believe a year has passed since Hazel joined our family. I remember the first year went by quickly with Ellie but this year zipped by even faster. We are blessed and thankful for our sweet girls.

A few more photos from her birthday party:

So close to walking on her own!

Thanks, Barb, for the fun party!
The whole family helped blow out candles.
Happy, Happy Birthday to our Sweet Hazel Jane!